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Mar 15, 2011
Rally at Parliament, Cape Town, March 14, 2011

Rally at Parliament, Cape Town, March 14, 2011

I’m overwhelmed by joy, hope and pride as I write these words.

Yesterday, Luleki Sizwe founder Ndumie Funda delivered a petition of over 170,000 names of people from 163 countries who signed at Change.org to urge the South African government to take action against so-called ‘corrective’ rape. After a meeting between Funda, representatives from other activist groups, and senior officials at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development, an agreement was reached.

“It was a great meeting,” Funda said. “I was very impressed by the level of cooperation, they have agreed to work with us and other stakeholders and I am looking forward to a very constructive, tangible, progressive working relationship.”

“We clearly need an intervention plan,” Praise Tsidi Kambula, the ministry’s Chief Director of the Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups said, “It is our responsibility as a department to ensure that victims of ‘corrective rape report on these cases. We cannot do this thing alone. We need you guys to define for us what is needed.”

This position is a departure, and speaks volumes about the women and men who have persisted in tackling an issue so nightmarish that it’s almost – literally – unspeakable.

As a lesbian and a footballer, and as a writer, the topic burned in me. Despite a compulsion to write about ‘corrective’ rape, Football Against ‘Corrective’ Rape was one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever produced. I simply could not find the words.

It took more drafts than I care to remember, ultimately finalized only after the gentle coaxing of a friend who verbalized an idea I couldn’t bear to admit: “I can see why this is so emotional for you,” she wrote, responding to one of the drafts. “Similane* could have been you if…”

She was right, but there’s another truth here: Simelane could have been any of us. Is it not true that a violation of one of us is a violation of all of us?

In the end it was words – over 170, 000 names – that forced an ideological shift and demanded action from South Africa’s officials. Today, my heart is in Cape Town, bursting to witness the result of so many acts of courage.

“Today marked an incredible achievement, and I humble myself to the 170,000 people from all over the world who made this possible,” said Ndumie Funda. “It was about time this happened. The 14th of March will now always be a day of celebration in the history of my life.”

View photographs from the rally and meetings here.

*Eudy Simelane was a member of the South African national football team. In 2008, she was raped, tortured and murdered. She died just several hundred yards from her family home. 

Update: Read Ndumi Funda’s essay “Why I Started Fighting ‘Corrective’ Rape” on the Change.org site.
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  1. Craiggers says:

    This is great news, but beware… I’m concerned about the potential for complacency that hides behind this quote: “It is our responsibility as a department to ensure that victims of corrective rape report on these cases. We cannot do this thing alone. We need you guys to define for us what is needed.” Haven’t victim advocates like Luleki Sizwe been doing this all along? Haven’t they been defining, fighting for, supporting, and publicizing definitions of victim rights to date? Where was the Department then? I’m just saying…
    I hope this is an instance where politicians actually follow through without the expectation of a kickback.
    Great article, Keph. Keep them coming :)

  2. ksenett says:

    Yes, you are not the only reader to notice that quote. Luleki Sizwe et al have been defining, fighting for, supporting and publicizing… and on Monday something changed. Whether the government officials end up doing the right thing – indeed, anything at all – remains to be seen, but this is a significant development from the situation before where the issue was completely invisible. And that is progress.

    I resisted the urge to write an “on the other hand” into this article for two reasons. 1) I think the work done by activists around the world and these events are significant enough to warrant a plainly positive response, even if only for one day. 2) Hope. Just that.

  3. Pega Ren says:

    I remember all the rallies and marches I’ve attended on 8 March, International Women’s Day. I loved the quote that this day, 14 March, has become something like that in another part of our world. You wrote an inspiring article that propelled many of us to sign that petition. I rejoice that it seems to have been effective. Brava for all of us!

  4. Pingback: Will The UN’s Historic LGBT Human Rights Resolution Reduce ‘Corrective’ Rape? | The New Civil Rights Movement

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